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Our Work In The Archives, First Quarter 2021

April 29, 2021
Katie Cannon lecture on Martin Luther King Jr.'s ethics, 1996; news broadcast on arson of MLK Community Presbyterian Church (Springfield, Mass.), 2021.

Over winter, your archivists sheltered at home once more, as new waves of the coronavirus pandemic crashed against our country's medical first responders and their intensive care wards. We beheld a transition of federal power, and watched white supremacists stage a recruitment drive on the steps of the Capitol. We held out hope for the renewal of a church whose building was burned down by a white supremacist, and we digitized and shared the healing power of shalom. This was our work in the archives in the first quarter of 2021.


We embarked on the first portion of an ongoing inter-institutional effort to digitize the complete works of Katie Geneva Cannon, bringing in 1600 pages of texts and hundreds of megabytes of audio and video from our partners at the Center for Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. This project was among the 9480 pages Allison, Cecilia, and Sharon imaged in the quarter, while continuing to work only half-time on-site.

As if to coincide with the placing of First Presbyterian Church (Stamford, Conn.) on the national register of historic places, records of the pastor responsible for building the "Fish Church" came in during the winter. Robert Lamar, moderator of the 1974 UPCUSA General Assembly, was a committed ecumenical leader, a driving force for church union, and an advocate for gay liberation within the church. His oldest son Paul told us about coming back to his dad's church in Albany in 1974 as the congregation engaged in self-study surrounding the report of the church's Task Force on Homosexuality.

Student panelists from the Community College of Philadelphia, professional museum installers, and PHS archivists put the finishing touches on the physical exhibits for Building Knowledge and Breaking Barriers, an archives-based learning project. This exhibit is a capstone for the two-and-a-half year collaboration. Educators at schools and worshipping communities around the country can use the online teaching materials prepared by BKBB.  

Processing archivist Liz Wittrig worked on the 90-foot Church World Service collection during the quarter, revealing CWS's work in crisis relief, refugee resettlement, and advocacy for peace, and helping to illuminate the continued ecumenical commitments of the PC(USA). Your donations make it possible for PHS archivists to process records like those in the Church World Service collection and make them accessible for researchers. To make a gift to PHS and support this work, visit

In the quarter we brought into the archives 50 feet of records in 49 groups, including the records of 21 historic and active PC(USA) congregations. We fielded questions from dozens of churches that asked us for help.

We continue to operate under conditions that we didn't choose, but our work to remind the church of where it's been, and the promises it made to itself, is ongoing. Hope returns in the spring. See you next quarter.